How Much is Enough? Book Summary - How Much is Enough? Book explained in key points
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How Much is Enough? summary

Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky

Money and the Good Life

4.2 (25 ratings)
15 mins
8 key ideas
Audio & text

What is How Much is Enough? about?

How Much is Enough sets out to critically inform the reader about the moral, historical and economical backgrounds of modern day capitalism, its obsession with accumulating more and more, and its consequences. It also vigorously outlines an ethical alternative to this lifestyle, in which our obsession with “more” is replaced with “the good life.”

About the Author

Robert Skidelsky is the famed author of the three volume biography on economist John Maynard Keynes as well as an Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick.

His son, Edward Skidelsky, is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Exeter as well as author of the book Ernst Cassirer: the Last Philosopher of Culture. In addition, he regularly writes for the publications New Statesman and Prospect.

Table of Contents

    How Much is Enough?
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    Key idea 1 of 8

    Western societies are richer than ever, but that hasn’t translated to less work.

    Imagine you lived in a world in which you spend most of your time doing the things you enjoy, and would work only if you wanted to. Sounds remarkable, doesn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what famed economist James Maynard Keynes predicted roughly 100 years ago would be happening in our near future.

    In an essay in 1928, Keynes predicted that in 100 years Western societies would have obtained so much wealth that no one would have to work more than 3 hours a day.

    It’s certainly true that we’ve obtained wealth. In fact, history’s technological development has increased work efficiency so much that all our material needs could be easily satisfied without a need for much work.

    Indeed, a life of rewarding leisure should already be a possibility for everyone.

    Instead, however, most of us still have to work very hard to meet our needs, and struggle to find the time for recreation.

    Although Keynes’ was accurate in his prediction that we would see an increase in GDP per capita, i.e., the average annual income per household, his forecast of a 15-hour work-week failed spectacularly.

    The 15-hour work-week hasn’t caught on because there has been an unequal accumulation and distribution of wealth over the last decades, in which wealth is heavily concentrated in the hands of the few, while the masses still have to work 40 hours a week or more just to make ends meet.

    Consider, for example, that the richest one percent in the USA receive about 18 percent of the national income.

    And even those who could afford to live the life of luxury and leisure often still work well over 40 hours a week in pursuit of greater wealth.

    In addition, the continual advancements in work automatization, due to technological innovations from the 20th century, haven’t proved to be a blessing for all like Keynes had hoped. In fact, quite the opposite: these innovations helped produce a huge army of underpaid service contractors.

    So why is it that Keynes’s predictions failed so miserably?

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    Best quote from How Much is Enough?

    Capitalism is a two-edged sword.

    —Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky
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    Who should read How Much is Enough?

    • Anyone interested in philosophy, ethics or economics
    • Anyone who wants a better understanding of the competitive culture of capitalist societies
    • Anyone who wants to know how to get out of the rat race

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